President Barack Obama today will mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by calling on lawmakers to restore the landmark law.
Obama, along with Attorney General Loretta Lewis and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., will participate in a video conference with citizens nationwide and talk with advocates and officials who have worked on voting rights’ laws.
Obama will also encourage Americans to participate in National Voter Registration Day on September 22.
The Supreme Court two years ago struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, a formula that decided which states and jurisdictions with histories of violating voter rights would have to get federal consent before making any changes to their voting laws. The court called the formula outdated.
The court decision weakened other pillars of the landmark law and civil rights advocates, civil liberties groups, and several lawmakers have been pressing Congress to repair the act.
Obama considers the law “one of the crowning achievements of our democracy,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, and believes “it’s our responsibility to honor the sacrifices of so many who risked so much by protecting the law as promised.”
The teleconference takes place as Republican presidential candidates gather in Cleveland for their first primary debate. Asked if there was irony to the timing, Earnest suggested "one person's irony is another person's serendipity."
“Maybe there will be an opportunity for Republican candidates to discuss the importance of protecting the right of every eligible American to cast a vote, particularly in an election as consequential as the upcoming presidential election,” he said.
The White House says since the court decision, the Justice Department has filed several major statewide cases to enforce the non-discrimination requirements, including a challenge to several of Texas’s 2011 statewide redistricting plans and its photo ID requirement and a challenge to several provisions in a North Carolina law, which shortens early voting, eliminates same-day voter registration during early voting and prohibits counting certain provisional ballots.